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‘My Biggest Inspiration’: 13-Year-Old Rising Star Aria Brooks Credits Marsai Martin, Other Young Black Actresses for Allowing Her to Dream Big

Rising star Aria Brooks is the newest member of Nickelodeon’s “All That” reboot cast, but don’t box her in as only an actress. The 13-year-old, who also sings, writes, and creates her own content, is steadily working toward becoming a well-rounded entertainment beast.

The Atlanta native made her first notable performance in the 2019 film “Harriet” opposite Grammy and Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo, as the famous abolitionist’s niece, Anger. The experience was one that Brooks called “unbelievable” and one that she won’t soon forget.

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Cynthia Erivo and Aria Brooks in “Harriet”/Photo Credit: @ItsAriaBrooks/Instagram

“Since the day I said I wanted to do this for a living, I was kind of waiting on the day I could work on a big-name project with people that I’ve grown up watching, and so I was like ‘Wait a minute. This is the moment. This is crazy,’ ” she told Atlanta Black Star during an exclusive interview.  “So I remember when I got to meet Cynthia Erivo for the first time. I was so excited, I was waiting for her and saw her walking from far away and was fangirling from miles away. It was so cool and it was pretty unbelievable to think I had gotten to that place honestly.”

Working on the feature film gave the young actress not only a deeper understanding of Tubman, but also taught her a valuable lesson about the importance of remaining persistent. “During the audition period, I had a lot of auditions, I heard a lot of nos, and it got to a challenging point because I was progressing in my career,” she said. “I was getting better at acting, I was getting better with my work ethic on set so …it started to get overwhelming. The motivation to keep me going, the drive, I was hungry for it. I feel like had I not kept going none of this stuff would have happened right now.”

Brooks, who was familiar with the show’s original 90’s-early 2000’s run before joining the cast, made her “All That” reboot debut in January 2020. Her audition process was intense, sending in a performance on tape for the first round, then being called to LA for an in-person audition, and finally landing the gig after a third audition, a screen test.

The new iteration of the series has welcomed back some familiar original faces including Kel Mitchell, Lori Beth Denberg, and Josh Server, who were all members of the original 1994 cast, and who’ve all provided valuable advice to the young cast, according to Aria.

“They definitely gave us a lot of advice because, of course, they were in our shoes at one point,” she told us. “Some of the advice that we’ve received, a lot of it was support from them…they’ve been really supportive at helping us and giving us their tips.”

Kel Mitchell welcomes Aria Brooks to the cast of “All That.”/ Photo Credit: @ItsAriaBrooks/Instagram

In her short time as a cast member of the teen sketch comedy series, Aria and her “All That” castmates have become “really, really close on-set” and are doing what they can to continue to keep that bond strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The entire cast we’re so, so close. We’re always texting each other…We were always together every single day and then all of a sudden we’re taken out of our element, we have to go home, then we can’t see each other anymore, so it’s kind of like “Wait a minute, what?” So we’ve been texting each other a lot, FaceTiming each other all the time.”

Brooks also teased us with a moment that has been her favorite so far since joining the series, but couldn’t reveal too much about just yet. “I can’t get too specific, but I had the most amazing-est, delicious-est Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever had in my life and we had it with another cast from another Nickelodeon show that ended a while back,” she hinted at excitedly. “I’m going to leave it at that…I was literally sitting next to the star of a show from years ago, which was crazy.”

Aria Brooks and fellow “All That” cast member Reece Caddell/Photo Credit:@AllThat/Instagram

As her career continues to grow, Aria looks to fellow young multi-talented Black stars as inspiration and examples of what she can one day achieve. “Currently, my biggest inspiration is Marsai Martin. She’s a Black girl, and we’re on the rise I think, but still you don’t see as many Black girls doing their thing and then she had a similar start to mine. I feel like I can go off and do filmmaking and do all these things she’s achieving right now.”

She added, “I have looked up to Zendaya for years. I love all of her work and she’s another one of my biggest inspirations right now.” Brooks also noted Skai Jackson as another inspiring force in her career.

Much like the young stars she looks up to, Brooks is not limiting herself to developing just one talent and enjoys creating an array of content to share on her YouTube channel and Instagram page.

“Content creation for me varies for everything from writing music, writing songs, writing scripts, and stories. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade,” she told ABS. “I wrote my first book in second grade and I started writing music when I was 10, so content creation is almost like a hobby that I take seriously. I release my music and it’s almost like therapy for me…Whenever something happens to me you can find me writing a song or a script.”

Now that the world has slowed down due to the pandemic, Aria has more time to create more content and focus on expanding her breadth of knowledge about the entertainment industry. “I took a Zoom class for filmmaking, which is probably the most filmmaking knowledge I’ve ever learned,” said Brooks. “I attended a sketch comedy workshop, which was really cool as well because I’ve never trained in comedy. I’m just kind of a goofball in my everyday life.”

Along with doing her industry homework, the young star has also been sure to enjoy her downtime by “trying to find things like drawing and coloring” as well as “eating lots of ice cream and watching Netflix.”

New episodes of “All That” are currently airing on Nickelodeon. Aria also promises she’s also working on a slew of new pop songs for her music fans, which she hopes to release later this year.

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